Small Raft on a Big Lake

Me and my dad… he loves me, I know.

I was seven years old. My father owned his own construction company and he built houses in our neighbourhood. I was an active young lady who many would not call a lady. I liked running, swimming, scraped knees and I always seemed to be getting into trouble.

Our home was in this great area, not far from the core of the city, but there was lake in our backyard. The part where our home was seemed like a pond that emptied into a much larger lake that had a few islands.

This one day, I decided I wanted to go into that bigger part of the lake. At this point I still did not know how to swim. We only moved here maybe a year before and my mother was busy with the soon arrival of a new baby. She still had my little sister who was only four, to keep tabs on too.

I went to where the newer construction area and began to collect scraps from the construction site. I picked up the pieces of insulation foam, I found a pallet that they delivered the supplies on. I looked for a long piece of wood and a wider piece. I stuffed all the insulation foam I could find into the pallet. I filled it with foam and then dragged the pallet down to the shoreline. There was a particular area where there was more of a beach than the rocky edge of the waterfront behind my house. Besides, this way my mother would not see me.

I then had to wait until the workmen building the houses had a break and I very quietly searched out a hammer and some nails. I hammered the short wide piece of wood I had found to the end of the long piece. Now I had a paddle.

I launched this raft onto the lake and gingerly stepped onto it. I pushed it away from the beach so it wouldn’t stick in the mud, but stick it did. I needed to step out further into the water with my raft and then throw myself onto it and wiggle up to a sitting position. There was a little wind blowing across the lake and it wasn’t overly sunny and warm, but I was intent on making my way into the big lake. I wanted to explore the islands and see what was way down the other end. I had never been there.

And as all adventures go, this one became exciting quickly. I was very pleased with myself and the wonder of this adventure. I was Jacques Cousteau, though I had no idea who that was. The raft began to drift, more than being directed by me, toward the space between the shore and island. Once through this narrow passage, I would be in the big lake. I could see the little waves of the wind that were whipped up on the big lake, larger than the waves around me. The raft began to move more rapidly in that direction. Or at least, some of the raft. This movement and the water lapping around the raft was also beginning to cause some of the little pieces of foam to come out from between the top and bottom boards of the raft. As these pieces came out, leaving a trail behind me, the raft began to sink a little lower in the water.

With the wisdom of a young seven year old, I began to try to collect the pieces and shove them back under the deck of the raft. Unfortunately, I was only watching one side and the pieces would promptly exit the other.

Then I heard my father’s voice yelling at me. I looked up and there was my father on the shoreline across from me yelling at me to come to the shore. I still see him in his long pants and white shirt, gesturing wildly with his hands. There was a moment of hesitation. Having embarked on enough adventures in my early seven years of life, I was fairly certain this adventure was not going to be celebrated. More likely, it would end with an angry and incredulous, “what in the hell were you thinking?”

Still, I thought, I had better get over there before things got worse, after all, I was on a sinking raft. My 60 pound body, and yes, here in Canada at that time we still used pounds, was struggling to put enough force behind the paddle to redirect the raft from the wind’s intention of the passage to the big lake. As I put my body weight behind the paddle, the nails gave way and now I was holding a long stick. I looked up toward my father and he promptly stepped into the water, clothes, shoes and all and waded over to me. He grabbed me and abandon the raft.

I don’t remember how bad the trouble was. I don’t remember if there was a punishment. I remember two things; first, my dad was signed up for swimming lessons. You see despite the grand idea of living on a lake with what would soon be four children, neither he nor my mother knew how to swim. The second thing I remember was the focus and intensity when I was figuring out how to make a raft and a paddle. I remember the sneakiness with which I had to secure the pieces, the effort of making the raft and the paddle and the pure joy and excitement as I put it into the water.

I was going on an adventure. I remember the curiosity of what I would discover and the excitement.

Flash forward all these years and now, as I recall that moment, I sense the routine and lack of curiosity in my life. I see the lack of excitement. Having just spent a weekend with an amazing group of people and deepening my understanding of how to coach, that excitement came alive again. At first I heard the little voice — you know the one that awoke in a seven year old me when I saw my father on the embankment yelling at me, “what the hell are you thinking?!?”

Then I heard, “follow the excitement.”

What would life look like if I followed the excitement? Would it be a sunken raft and pieces of foam strewn through the water? Or maybe, with a little more knowledge and a more thought out plan, it would be an exploration of distant shores. New vistas, new people and a new sense of my own possibility and joy.

What would it look like for you?

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